It has provided India an opportunity to reassert its primacy
Given Pakistan's stated concerns about the Indian involvement in Afghanistan, New Delhi should propose a regular trilateral India-Pakistan-Afghanistan dialogue
THE presence of the leaders of India's South Asian neighbours and Mauritius at the swearing-in of Mr. Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister was a landmark event in South Asia’s quest for regional amity and cooperation. It provided an opportunity for India to reassert its primacy in the region, despite its economic downturn and eroding influence in the face of significant Chinese inroads. In the absence of Sheikh Hasina, the stage was dominated by Mr. Modi's meetings with Presidents Hamid Karzai and Rajapakse and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Nepal would do so much better in Indian perceptions if it set its domestic politics in order and adopted, like Bhutan, an enlightened approach to mutually beneficial energy cooperation.
The meetings of the new Prime Minister were set rolling with his interaction with the charismatic and outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The two leaders had spoken earlier, when Lashkar e Taiba terrorists laid siege to our consulate in Herat. This was the eighth attack on Indian missions and mission personnel in Afghanistan, which have included three attacks each in Kabul and Jalalabad and one each in Kandahar and Herat. All these attacks have been executed by terrorists from the Taliban, Haqqani Network or Lashkar e Taiba with clear evidence in at least three cases of ISI involvement.
With President Obama having set a firm schedule for a total withdrawal of the American combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, the stage is now set for new dynamics to developments in Afghanistan. The Pakistan military establishment will now put strategies in place for progressive takeover of the Afghanistan by its Taliban and Haqqani proxies. India's predominantly economic role in Afghanistan will accordingly have to be augmented by imaginative regional diplomacy involving Iran, Afghanistan's Central Asian neighbours, China and Russia. At the same time, the US, its NATO allies and Japan have to be approached to keep funds flowing for Afghanistan’s national security and economic development.
While in Delhi, President Karzai again alluded to his disappointment at India's response to his requests for military assistance. This can be remedied, in consultation with Russia, given the huge surpluses we have in Soviet-era equipment ranging from tanks to fighter aircraft. Given Pakistan's stated concerns about the Indian involvement in Afghanistan, New Delhi should propose a regular trilateral India-Pakistan-Afghanistan dialogue. A mere India-Pakistan dialogue on this issue would be like staging Hamlet without the King of Denmark! Strategically, an effective India-Iran-Afghanistan dialogue is also essential, for the development of Iran's Chah Bahar port providing India guaranteed and easy access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.